Two White House intruders in 24 hours prompts inquiry
Two intruders - one who jumped the White House fence and made it into the building - have elicited calls for investigating the Secret Service and their security protocols.
The White House intruder who jumped a security fence on Friday and got inside the presidential mansion was carrying a knife, according to the criminal complaint obtained by Fox News and contrary to initial reports that the man was unarmed.
According to the complaint filed in federal court, 42-year-old Omar J. Gonzales, of Copperas Cove, Texas, had a concealed black folding knife when Secret Service agents apprehended him inside the north White House door that faces Pennsylvania Avenue.
After he was arrested, he told a Secret Service agent that "he was concerned the atmosphere was collapsing and needed to get the information to the President of the United States so he could get the word out to the people," the document says.
The incident Friday occurred at 7:20 p.m. on the north side of the White House, along Pennsylvania Avenue, about four minutes after President Obama, his two daughters and a friend departed in helicopter Marine One from the South Lawn for a weekend trip to Camp David.
First lady Michelle Obama had already departed separately to the western Maryland presidential retreat.
The security breach was followed less than 24 hours later by a New Jersey man driving up to a White House gate and refusing to leave, and Secret Service Director Julia Pierson saying enhanced security and surveillance were put in place overnight and that she has ordered a full investigation of the Friday night security breech
The incident Saturday occurred at about 3 p.m. when the man approached one of the White House gates on foot. He later showed up at another gate in a car and pulled into the vehicle screening area, said agency spokesman Ed Donovan.
When the man refused to leave, he was placed under arrest and charged with unlawful entry. The suspect has been identified as Kevin Carr, from Shamong, N.J.
Just hours after the Saturday arrest, Secret Service Director Julia Pierson said security and surveillance capabilities along the Pennsylvania Avenue fence line had been increased overnight. And she announced that she has ordered the agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility to conduct a “comprehensive, after-action review of the incident.”
This latest incident involving the Secret Service comes on the heels of 4 other scandals that calls into question the agency's management and practices. In 2012, an agent was found passed out drunk on a sidewalk in Miami. Earlier this year, two agents were involved in a car crash while on duty. In 2012, there was the notorious incident in Cartagena where several agents and managers had a party and hired high priced call girls. Despite all of those incidents leading to investigations and recommendations, earlier this year, an agent was found passed out in a hallway of a hotel in Amsterdam.
One former agent points the finger at weak leadership:
One retired senior official says it's time for his former employer to re-examine how it oversees the cadre of the world’s most elite bodyguards.
“What I see is a trend in poor leadership within the Secret Service,” says Dan Emmett, a 21-year Secret Service veteran who retired in 2004 after stints in both the CAT teams and the elite Presidential Protective Division, which directly guards the president. “The Secret Service is awash in managers, but has very few leaders. There’s a major difference between a manager and a leader.”
Emmett, who protected Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, was a Marine Corps infantry officer before joining the agency. He points to the military’s rank structure, which is embedded into the core of any unit and stresses the importance of leadership at every level, from generals commanding a whole division all the way down to a corporal in charge of a fireteam of four young troops.
Such an ubiquitous opportunity for honing leadership skills is missing in the Secret Service, he says, which picks leaders from a broad collective pool of special agents that now numbers 3,400.
“The Secret Service does not teach leadership, the Secret Service teaches management,” Emmett says. “I had no formal leadership training as such by the Secret Service.”
The agency relies on a highly competitive applicant pool, many of whom, like Emmett, have previous experience in the military or in highly trained police units, such as SWAT teams. The average agent spends five to nine years working on investigations or in one of dozens of domestic and international field offices before being allowed to join the presidential bodyguard ranks.
If leadership is the problem, it's hard to see how piling technological gadgets and additional agents on to the current set up will help. Both incidents this weekend may not have been preventable, although the intruder should probably have been shot. But that doesn't excuse a lack of leadership and the Secret Service better address the problem before their incompetence leads to tragedy.